Because the fares seemed reasonable. I did not want to use up an Award ticket.
I looked on Expedia for the best fares. I needed a ticket valid at least 3 months in the event I had to stay a long time. The cheapest at $600 was JET Airways connecting to SN Brussels via Brussels. I love Indian food and JET looks great. But JET only give 50% mileage credit to American Airlines frequent flyer accounts for Y class travel and zilch on United. The return flight left at 6 AM, too early for a night owl.
I needed 6,000 miles on my Delta Airlines account for a free European award ticket and saw that Alitalia were offering a fare of $680 via Rome. However the flight to Rome was on Delta and when someone told me Delta serve OREO cookies as desert on their flights to Europe I decided I did not want to risk an attack of Air Rage in mid - air with jail time in an Italian prison.
Air Canada also offered a fare of $600 via Montreal or Toronto. The flight to Geneva originates in Toronto with a stop in Montreal so I picked the Montreal connection. I would get United miles and could change dates for a fee of $150. My father had lived in Montreal in the late 1950s for 6 months; he had applied for Political Asylum but they turned him down and told him to leave ASAP. This trip would at least give me the chance to get a quick glimpse of Montreal, where I nearly grew up. My father had always told me that it was freezing cold there.
I had 3 hours to connect in Montreal; ample time for a relaxing and stressless connection. I arrived at the gate and saw my plane. As I approached the gate I saw that no, this plane was 1 hour late and heading to Toronto. We were told that the flight to Montreal would also be delayed to bad weather between Newark and Montreal.
Here is the small commuter flight operated by JAZZ. It's a Canadair 100. There were only about 20 passengers boarding.
The weather at Newark was really nice. Here is the flight to Toronto departing.
Our flight finally arrived 2 1/2 hours late. By now it was obvious that I would miss my connection to Geneva and I was hoping they would put me on Lufthansa to Munich. The Agent told me that there was a chance I would make my connection but I did not believe him. All passengers connecting to Frankurt were put on to the Geneva flight as it was clear they would miss their connections.
I was upgraded to C to Montreal. The aircraft was a Canadair 705. Instead of 2 / 2 seating C class seating is 1 / 2. I had a seat all to myself.
Here the plane is arriving. I was thrilled to see it. The flight was full.
Most people in C were Swedish executives heading to a pharmaceutical conference in Montreal. I was served apple juice in a real glass (wow) and peanuts. Here is a picture of C class, the peanuts and the nice glass. Now I know how the "other half lives." Life can be so beautiful. In the meantime I was biting my nails, fearing that I was about to spend the night in Montreal.
The 2 crew members, a young lady and young guy were fluent in French Canadian and English. The way they speak French to me is quite exotic and I was at least entertained listening. The entertainment video system is very good but I think Y class have to pay. I was too nervous to bother. The 50 minute flight was noisy and bumpy. The steward warned us that we may not make the Geneva flight. However those heading to Newfoundland had nothing to worry about.
We landed in Montreal at 8.30 PM. The GVA flight was leaving at 8.45 PM. We had to first go through Canadian Customs. A trolley car was waiting for us. The Customs guy let me through at 8.50 PM. The door to the international gates was shut. I looked at the departure board and to my shock saw that the flight to GVA had "departed on time."
I felt sick. What an idiot I am, I said to myself. I should have taken SWISS nonstop for $700 but because I wanted some excitement in my life I chose Air Canada. In the end, I got more excitement than I had bargained for. This was only the beginning.
Continental was $2,000 because their tickets are only valid 1 month. I E mailed them that they were not competitive and when I checked they were extending their tickets to GVA, now to 3 month validity from 1 month.
The others were also depressed. There were about 10 of us. No one told us what to do. We all asked ourselves "so what do we do now?" We decided that we would have to pass passport control and pick up our luggage.
The lines were long. An AF 747, a KLM DC-10, a Transat flight from Cuba and us had just landed. There was a big sign welcoming us to Montreal for the "Pharmaceutical Conference." How cute. During the 45 minute wait to pass through Passport Control, a Swedish guy asked me "you were in Business Class. Don't you think it's disgraceful that there is no express line for business class passengers?' I was completely numb from this question. Being a peasant, I had no idea that F or C passengers have special Express lines through customs. I did not want him to know that I was a "fake C class passenger who had been upgraded." Well I responded ...."I should not even be here. I missed my connection."
I picked up my luggage and was told to go to the Air Canada ticket office. There was a Swiss couple with their teenage son. All they did all the way to GVA was read books; they never uttered one word to each other. They were sent to the Travel Lodge, an old motel. A middle aged couple from New Jersey traveling to Frankfurt, a German father and son and I were sent to the Hilton Gardens. We were very lucky.
Here is a picture of the hotel.
I was given a $15 voucher for dinner, $7 for breakfast and $10 for lunch. I was routed the next evening through Frankfurt on AC / LH. I asked if it would be faster through Zurich? Why responded the Agent. OK I got the hint. Shutup.
The hotel dining room was closed but I was able to buy a delicious tuna red pepper sandwich. I got to my room at 11.15 PM. I put on the tele and woke up the next morning at 9.45 AM with my clothes and shoes still on, the television and lights on. My mouth still tasted fishy as I had not brushed or flossed my teeth. Breakfast was served till 10AM so I ran downstairs as fast as I could.
I had a beautiful view of Montreal from my room.
I was really happy as I could now show off to all my friends that I had visited Montreal. I don't know why but I had taken my swimming trunks with me. The hotel had a beautiful heated pool and jacuzzi so I went for a swim. In the internet room I met the German boy who was busy doing his homework. His dad went into town to visit the city.
At lunch I met up with the couple from New Jersey. I was pretty impressed when I saw that they each had their own laptop computers. But what really impressed me was that they had bright red plastic EMIRATES luggage tags. These two were clearly world travelers. All I had was a paper Air Canada tag.
I then decided to go to the airport early to visit the beautiful Marriot hotel. I was told that Air Canada do not send their stranded passengers to this hotel as it is a bit too fancy / expensive. Here is a picture.
From upstairs I had a nice view of the airport. I was pretty distressed when I saw SWISS leaving for Zurich without me. It's a code share with AC so I don't see why they did not put me on this flight. I would have arrived in GVA 6 hours earlier.
A picture of the airport.
The flight to Frankfurt was full. There were many members of an Indian tribe on the flight; they told me which tribe but I forgot. They specified that they were not from India but from Quebec; as if I did not know. I think they said the Iroquis tribe. It was interesting listening to their language. I started thinking of the John Wayne western movies. Here is the 777.
The seats were comfortable with good legroom. The only thing I did not like was the "mood lighting." It's OK to put it on after dinner but the darkness depressed me. The choice of entertainment was good. We got a newspaper which was a nice touch but I read it in 10 minutes.
The French lady next to me who has lived in Quebec since 40 years started a phone conversation on her cell phone. She complained that she had a Lufthansa ticket and found herself on an Air Canada plane. The conversation went like this ,,,,"I hate Air Canada... I expected I would be on Lufthansa. I also like Swissair (they went out of business years ago). " Anyway she told me all about the political situation in Quebec and that many people had fled to Toronto.
The meal was mediocre. Here is a picture.
The starter was better than the lettuce one gets on the US airlines and on Swiss. The chicken was good. But the desert, a cheap wrapped chocolate brownie was not very enjoyable. I ate it all and I hated every single bite. I was very distressed that there was no cheese. I thought that a flight from French Quebec would at least offer some cheese. Even the US airlines like AA, Delta now serve cheese.
What bothered me somewhat was having to eat dinner (somewhere over Newfoundland) in the dark. I like a well lit cabin. I could barely see what I was eating. Here is a picture. I also noticed that the paper cups were so tiny so I had to ask for 2 orange juices.
The crew were mostly Quebecers; very well groomed and friendly. Breakfast was great. A delicious banana muffin. And the coffee was great. When I asked for a second cup the hostess told me "that's very funny. The coffee is called Second Cup." It's the Canadian version of Starbucks. They issue shares which pay an annual dividend of 15%. Not bad. I invested $1,000 bucks as a joke. The company is very small.
In Frankfurt I had 2 hours to connect. It took me 1 1/2 hours to get to the gate. First I got lost as the signeage was not easy to follow for a simple person like me.
The people at security in Frankfurt seem to work in "slow motion" and there are not enough of them. It is not a pleasant airport to connect. Last time I was in a terminal with hardly any toilets. This seemed a new terminal which was more pleasant.
The Lufthansa 737 was empty. The crew were very nice. We were served a delicious cream cheese fish sandwich on a cheese roll. However I was devastated that Lufthansa have now eliminated the traditional mini chocolate caramel TWIX bar. Here is a picture.
Air Canada only fly to GVA in the winter 4 times a week. I had to stay longer and paid $150 to change the date. Then I got a call that my 96 year old aunt had to go to the hospital as she caught the Shingles. Again I had to change the return for another $150. Some airlines now charge $250 so I was happy about the fee and the ability to change the dates twice. However the air ticket ended up costing me $900. I was a fool not to have used an Award.
I had 2 suitcases. Air Canada do not charge for the 2nd suitcase. BA, Virgin charge about $50 and CO now I believe charge $30. Before leaving I went to the airport restaurant from where one can get great views.
I was surprised to see that Qatar Airways operate a small Airbus in the winter. Here is the AC 767 arriving.
The flight was about 60% full. There was quite a large crowd who arrived from Beirut on MEA and connected onto our flight. They tended to liven up the atmosphere on board. Boarding was very relaxed and civilised unlike my previous experience on CO where the purser yelled at us at 9 AM (too early for me) to hurry up and sit down so that we can leave on time.
I had 3 seats to myself. On Expedia I noticed that some seats have 31" , 32" and even 33" legroom. I picked 32" as 33" were booked. When I boarded I noticed that the seat pockets had not been cleaned. I found a dirty napkin and plastic hidden inside my seat pocket. In the seat pocket next to me I found a stirer. Here is a picture of the goodies I discovered. I reported it to the Purser who took note. What a sneak.
I regretted not picking the window seats next to me. The 2 ladies had 2 seats to themselves which made me somewhat jealous.
The view was spectacular as the Mont Blanc today was not covered by clouds. Again the meal was mediocre.
The starter was OK and so was the chicken. But the desert was a disaster. A milky creamy sickening liquid. However the peach was edible. Whoever chooses the deserts at Air Canada should be jailed. I wonder if it's one person or a committee of 10 tasters.
I started reading the magazine. After 5 minutes the articles and pictures looked familiar. Even though we were in November the magazine in my seat pocket was still from October. I was able to find the November issue 3 seats down.
The snack for an 8 + hour flight; a spinach cheese wrap was measly.
We arrived in Montreal in a depressing rainfall.
The plane was continuing on to Toronto.
I had to pass US Customs in Montreal which was a pain. You do not see your suitcases but they take a picture o them. I had to wait to have a picture taken of my 2 suitcases. Then I was allowed to go.
By this time I was starving. The food options are very disappointing. I expected that in Quebec I would see delicious French pastry and French style sandwiches. The food looked so awful that I ended up having a Burger King hamburger.
I was surprised that the plane to New York, La Guardia would be a baby Embraer 175. The 1 hour flight was noisy and bumpy; only about 1/4 full. There was 1 steward.
Flights to Newark were 2 hours late due to weather. It seems that Newark is more affected by weather delays than La Guardia.
I arrived at La Guardia and freaked out when only 1 of my suitcases arrived. The next day I had to call Air Canada in India as they handle the lost baggage. After 5 days I was told that there was only a tiny chance of ever finding my suitcase ever again. It had wondered off onto the horizon forever. I was devastated. I don't know anyone who has ever lost a suitcase "forever." Especially as the suitcase had 4 address labels on 2 handles.
After speaking to AC in India every day for 2 months I finally was contacted by a human being in Montreal who told me they had found a suitcase with Davidoff Cigars. I told them that it was not mine. Shortly after I received a letter telling me that because I had not kept many receipts I would receive compensation of $1,167.44 though to replace all my stuff will cost me 4 times more. I won't discuss the issue further here.
The lesson: buy baggage insurance and try to fly NONSTOP.